2705: Spacetime Soccer

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Spacetime Soccer
Spacetime Soccer, known outside the United States as '4D Football' is a now-defunct sport. Infamous for referee decisions hinging on inconsistent definitions of simultaneity, it is also known for the disappearance of many top players during... [more]
Title text: Spacetime Soccer, known outside the United States as '4D Football' is a now-defunct sport. Infamous for referee decisions hinging on inconsistent definitions of simultaneity, it is also known for the disappearance of many top players during... [more]


This comic proposes Spacetime Soccer, a sport consisting of a "regular" soccer field with a gravitational well in the center of it. This comic was likely published in relation to the 2022 FIFA World Cup which, due to numerous controversies surrounding policies and conditions in the host country, Qatar, was prevalent in the 2022 news cycle for weeks.

Judging by the size of the blackest part of the indentation, presuming that indicates the event horizon of the black hole, the radius of the event horizon would be approximately 9.6 meters and the singularity's mass 6.5×1027 kilograms, or more than 1082 times the mass of the Earth [[1]].

Not only would it be impossible for human players to travel through more than three spatial dimensions at will, it would also be very difficult to keep track of score and rules such as offsides.

Offside is a rule in soccer that applies to players who are in certain positions relative to the boundaries of the pitch, the ball, and the second-last opponent on the opposing team. Players in such positions are eligible for being judged guilty of an offside offence if they become involved in the ongoing play before rectifying their status. It is of special importance to know the different players' positions at the exact moment the ball gets passed, rather than when the passed ball may be received or the offside player is otherwise considered active. But in relativistic spacetime there is no universal definition of an exact moment, beyond a single point, as time may run at different speeds for multiple observers in varying situations (where they are moving relative to each other, are influenced by differing local gravity or – as seems very likely in this example – both). An additional joke is that even in regular soccer, the offside rule is notoriously difficult to fully understand (or explain to someone).

The title text is written in the style of the beginning to a Wikipedia article on the topic. It alludes to the fact that most countries in the world refer to the sport with that particular obscure offside rule as football (or some translation thereof, like fútbol or Fußball) while the USA, Canada, Ireland, Japan and Australia tend to call it soccer, which comes from the British shortening of "association football", because they already used the name "football" for gridiron football, Gaelic football, or Australian football (which share a common ancestry with the other sport, along with "rugby football", hence the name).


[On a gray "rubber sheet" visualization of a gravity well is drawn some of the lines of a standard Association Football (Soccer) pitch. Visible features of the standard pitch are the outside borders, the goals and the small and large boxes around each goal. Absent are the corner quarter circles, the penalty spots and associated D, and the center line. The central circle is lost/concealed by the curvature of the gravity well. There are a number of other lines encircling and radial to the gravity well, they are visually identical to the familiar pitch markings so it is unclear whether these are intended to be drawn on the pitch or merely indications of the shape of the surface, or both, for the purpose of helping players to avoid the well. The lengthwise field boundary line on the visible far side partly follows/is partly followed by a suitable radial line before splitting off and conspicuously curving within the respective lip of the well to rejoin the radial line emerging at the complimentary angle in the opposing half of the field. A total of twenty figures can be seen on the pitch. Two are standing near the goal mouths, while the rest are distributed fairly evenly around the field, ten on each side of the middle. As they are all white stick figures on the gray surface, it is impossible to say which are on each team or if one is the referee. Five are within the inner circle around the well, and are distorted or tilted by the increased slope of the surface. A ball with motion lines is landing by the feet of one player who is running up one wing near, but left, of the central part of the field. This player is close to but not within the deeper part of the well. The players seems to be both women and men, as several look like Cueball and some like Hairy, and also many look like Megan and some like Ponytail. The color of the field becomes darker the deeper it goes into the well, from the normal gray color that extends from the two ends of the pitch to about halfway to the center of the field, in six steps until it is almost black at the deepest part of the well that is visible over the rim of the near part of the field.]
[Caption below the panel:]
Spacetime Soccer got a lot of criticism for how many players fell into the gravity well, but what ultimately doomed it was the advanced mathematics required to figure out the offsides rule.

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Wow, that was fast (talk) 03:48, 1 December 2022‎ (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

What was? 04:27, 1 December 2022 (UTC)

Does someone want to point out to Randall that it is the offside rule, not offsides rule 04:57, 1 December 2022 (UTC)

It's often pluralized in American English, per Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offside_(sport) 05:22, 1 December 2022 (UTC)
That makes no sense, it's an adjective, not a noun. It can't be pluralised. Even that wikipedia article, despite its assertion at the top, doesn't at any point use "offside" as a noun.
Side is a noun. It's colloquial in the US because other games use the same word. 12:03, 1 December 2022 (UTC)
Interesting that the inherent pluralisation doesn't extend to "math(ematic)s"... ;) 12:27, 1 December 2022 (UTC)
That's because "math" is a contraction, just the first four letters, the rest of the word is dropped. :) The British "maths" is weird because it just drops several letters in the middle, not sure I've ever seen another contraction like that without an apostrophe to stand in for the missing letters like "can't", "won't", "cont'd"... NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:12, 3 December 2022 (UTC)
In the US, the only time you would use "maths" is when it is genuinely plural: "I'm having trouble with my class schedule. I'm taking four maths concurrently." 18:16, 24 January 2023 (UTC)
Seems like a noun to me, it's the name of a place, isn't it? The part of the field you're not supposed to be? An "out of bounds" that's within the field? To be an adjective it would need a noun (besides "rule")... NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:23, 3 December 2022 (UTC)
Adjectival rules without nouns? "Commutative rule", etc. No nouns needed.
(I've no idea whether any of the other rules of football, from 1863 onwards, are named like that. Footie's not my sport, though I do at least inow what to be offside means, even if I couldn't tell at a glance whether any particular combination of players and ball might be in danger of invoking it.) 22:11, 3 December 2022 (UTC)
I can only imagine that Randall used the less-preferred (more-despised?) term to troll some of us. Does he not like the beautiful game? 01:15, 2 December 2022 (UTC)
I've never heard "offsides" plural, I don't think, but I don't exactly watch any sports. :) I can imagine such people think it's short for "off the sides", there's two sides to the field, thus plural. Never mind that if you understand the rule - and from me that is SAYING SOMETHING - there's only one side to be off of. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:23, 3 December 2022 (UTC)
It feels like a deliberate joke to me, offside rule on a 2D pitch, but if space is bendy and there is an extra dimension, then more than one way to be offside makes sense, and offside rules doesn't sound as funny. 14:22, 4 December 2022 (UTC)
This explanation gets my vote, 3D field has more ways to be offside, :) "Ref! He fell down the gravity well! OFFSIDE!" NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:25, 17 December 2022 (UTC)

I currently have no time to expand the explanation, but it should be pointed out that the gravity well drawing is a graph and not an actual surface. Also, people are perfectly fine with moving though 4 dimensional spacetime. We do it every day. Condor70 (talk) 09:19, 1 December 2022 (UTC) [citation needed] 09:59, 1 December 2022 (UTC)

...though note that I probably can't ever go back to where I was yesterday. 12:27, 1 December 2022 (UTC)
That has more to do with the fact that you flooded the museum's basement than spacetime though 15:24, 1 December 2022 (UTC)
I did not! I flooded their second floor. It was their fault that the basement subsequently flooded (and gained a few new items/display cases/members of staff and also an improved influx of visitors to the "Dried Goods Through The Ages" exhibit that they already kept down there), but they still blamed me for some strange and probably erroneous reason... 16:36, 1 December 2022 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure it mocks the fact that in the rest of the world, "football" is the sport where you play the ball with your *feet*, with a particular obscure rule that you can't touch it with your hands (unless you are a goalkeeper). On the other hand, American "football" is the sport where you grab the ball with your hands and carry it around. 16:35, 1 December 2022 (UTC)

In actuality, most of the native-English-speaking world (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, and South Africa) tend to refer to association football as "soccer" because another football game is more dominant (Australian football, gridiron football, Rugby union or league football, Gaelic football) and "association football" is a mouthful. This goes back at least to the 1882 founding of the South British Football Soccer Association in New South Wales. Football is not a game; it is a category of games played on grass, on and partly with the foot, without any sort of stick. 09:49, 2 December 2022 (UTC)

haha...I thought there actually was [more] 22:10, 1 December 2022 (UTC)

Can we get a scoreboard here for everyone who clicked on "more" somehow expecting more... :) RandalSchwartz (talk) 04:54, 2 December 2022 (UTC)
This part of the title text is not currently mentioned in the explanation, but it is clearly intentional. I think it is suggesting that the editor/writer disappeared before finishing the thought, but I'm open to other interpretations. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 02:27, 3 December 2022 (UTC)
Second this. Though being on firefox/XFCE, the popup disappeared for me when moving the mouse. I actually had a look at the source code to see if there is any magical link there... Possible interpretations could also include that the gravity well appears to be have more stuff in there but in the real world there is nothing there...or everything?...well, singularity! -- 10:55, 3 December 2022 (UTC)

Hey, there's a new what if post 19:25, 2 December 2022 (UTC)

Hey, added it —While False (museum | talk | contributions | logs | rights | printable version | page information | what links there | related changes | Google search | current time: 03:14) 19:42, 6 December 2022 (UTC)

Hi, slightly unrelated, but you might enjoy this view fom Nantes/France: https://www.google.de/maps/@47.2144483,-1.55127,3a,75y,9.78h,63.87t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1sAF1QipPNXGaLLRDirF9DunsP01gOMmOgkh3EIH2faAUk!2e10!3e11!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipPNXGaLLRDirF9DunsP01gOMmOgkh3EIH2faAUk%3Dw203-h100-k-no-pi-0-ya118.37107-ro-0-fo100!7i6080!8i3040

This reminds me of the World State's sports in Brave New World, like Electromagnetic Golf, Escalator Squash, and Riemann Surface Tennis. Take The A Train To Watertown (talk) 22:14, 5 December 2022 (UTC)

Is that a mirror or a drawing? 17:33, 6 December 2022 (UTC) That is a round mirror. Here's a different view: https://www.google.de/maps/@47.2145041,-1.551262,89m/data=!3m1!1e3

ChatGPT explanation[edit]

When I asked for an explanation with the usual prompt ("The following is the transcript from an xkcd comic. Please write an explanation of the comic. The title text should be explained in a seperate paragraph at the end:") ChatGPT produced nothing more than a paraphrase of the transcript. It was a good paraphrase, and easier to read than the transcript, but it wasn't an explanation of the comic at all, so I said, "Explain the joke of that comic." The result was this:

The joke of the comic is that the sport of Spacetime Soccer, also known as 4D Football, is a defunct sport that was criticized for the number of players who fell into the gravity well and for the complex math required to determine the offside rule. The visual distortion of the soccer pitch due to the gravity well, as well as the stick figures on the field, adds to the humor of the situation. The title text further emphasizes the absurdity of the sport by mentioning its inconsistencies and the disappearance of players during games.

It's clear we're not going to be satisfied automating with this prompt, but it's a useful tool for producing simple explanations if operated manually. 17:52, 7 December 2022 (UTC)